Army aims to develop self-decontaminating uniforms

Chemist David McGarvey, of the Army's Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is part of a team trying to develop Army uniform fabrics that can neutralize bio-threats on contact. | Courtesy of the U.S. Army
U.S. Army researchers at the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) in Maryland are studying the possibility of chemically treating fabrics used in soldiers' clothing so that the fabrics neutralize chemical or biological agents, they said on Wednesday.

A large part of this research is determining whether any by-products formed during neutralization of bio-threats could be potentially harmful to soldiers wearing clothing made with such fabrics.

"We are able to observe the chemical-weapon material, and we are able to identify the breakdown products and determine how well it works for decontamination," chemist and researcher, David McGarvey said. "We determine how effective the fabrics are at doing their job, and determine what the breakdown products are. We explain the mechanism of how these agents work, so the fabric developers can change their formulation and then make better fabrics."

How they determine reactions and use that data to predict effects to individuals consists of placing fabric samples treated with a synthesized agent -- or in some cases, the actual compound -- in a magnetic resonance chamber spectrometer. This device can determine which chemical reactions occur.

Within the scope of this research, the Army also is developing lightweight, more-comfortable protective suits.

Organizations in this story

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Gunpowder, MD 21010

Get notified the next time we write about Edgewood Chemical Biological Center!